Zvi Sahar reflects on the making of his new puppet cinema epic, “Suddenly, a Knock on the Door”, a project proudly supported by Asylum’s Small Grants. The show had its NY premiere at Brooklyn Academy of Music in December 2017 and played for four nights to a sold-out crowd.
I have been reading Etgar Keret since I was fifteen years old. Throughout high school, I would carry his small, pink-covered book, Tzinorot, in my back pocket all summer long. I always loved his stories, but never actually thought to stage any of them. They were perfect in their own medium.
In 2016, when I was invited to teach Puppet Cinema language at the University of Maryland as part of the Visiting Artist Program of the Schusterman Foundation, I was looking for materials that would contain fantasy, human sensitivity and realistic simplicity. Etgar Keret was the obvious choice for me – a writer, through which American students could learn about Israeli literature and culture, and could universally connect to these stories.
In preparation for the course, I went through all of Keret’s works. When I started reading over “Suddenly, a Knock on the Door” I felt that these collections of short stories could all connect within the capacity of a single performance. While the plot could evolve around the theme of man needing to be part of a story, the visuals would evolve around “creating something out of something”, one of the core lines in the opening story, where the stage would be filled with piles of ruins – old windows, rusted pieces of metal and broken shades.
Working with short stories was the ultimate experience for me to explore time. In a printed version of a story, there is a similar space between words and paragraphs. In a sentence like “Joe woke up in the morning and got into the car”, it’s up to me, the reader, to decide how long it took Joe to get out of bed, how long it took to open the car door and start the engine. It’s in these moments, in this space, where the words echoed in me, and that’s where I found emotion.
I’ve become used to the long process of creating new work, and looking back on the last two years, I believe that these ‘spaces’ also played a crucial role in creating the show. This show was developed in both Israel and the US, and the creation process itself had more parts and pauses than I’m used to. Similarly, when staging a story, these pauses in the process, pauses where the rehearsing process stops and echoes, that’s where I found creation.